Can you remember back to being a child in your dark room at night, and glancing across the room- Finding a weird shape, a sinister grin, a monster in your closet? Maybe you became scared, and pulled the blanket over your head to keep you safe through the night, or maybe you ran to turn on the light. Whether it was when you were scared, or in the morning, eventually the light is turned on and you look in your closet and find your favorite teddy bear. No sinister grin, no one out to get you, only a trick of the shadow in the night.
Consider how the shadow perverts the teddy bear, makes it into something it is not. The teddy bear which was created to bring comfort and goodness appears as something wicked and frightening to us – sends us running from the very thing that could help to comfort us.
In the most basic sense, sin is a breaking away from God. When that God is Truth itself, it is no wonder that sin functions like the tricks of the shadow, causing us to misunderstand the world. This metaphor can extend in many directions – how if we are a lantern, it also dulls the truth and light we can offer to the rest of the world to fight the shadow’s tricks – how it can make it harder to find the light switch – how helpless we can become in total darkness. The key point of all of these is that to be in sin is to see a world covered by the “shadow’s tricks”, and so also to have eyes blind to the real goodness of the world – of the teddy bear which exists for the good of child, but which can appear so frightening. Keep this image of sin in mind, I propose it fits into an understanding of how Jesus demonstrated his eternal victory over sin through his passion, as told by Matthew.
In Matthew’s telling of the Denial of Jesus, culminates in Matthew 26:74 At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man”. I propose this as a fitting response of someone who has just seen their friend arrested for crimes he did not commit, someone confused and angry that Jesus is being crucified for who he is not. Indeed, consider Matthew 52-54 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way? This verse demonstrates that Peter is clearly confused, and does not realize what Jesus is doing. There is clearly some lesson here, immediately close to Peter’s role in this, about how important it is to follow even when our understanding is in turmoil, but let us glance over this for now. Instead, let us focus on what happens to Jesus to cause this confusion, this turmoil.
Directly before Peter’s denial, there is a passage of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57-68). In this trial, he is falsely accused and ultimately condemned for blasphemy after saying, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of The Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven'” (64). You have said so. You will see. The focus here, during this trial it is not so much Jesus, as who they make Jesus to be – Jesus is not condemned for who He is, he is condemned specifically for who he is not.
Indeed, returning back just slightly before this Matthew 26:55 – Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me – highlights that there is no action where action against blasphemy could be expected.
If we relate this back then to the idea about sin as the ‘trick of the shadow’, Jesus is then enveloped in sin through this trial, through His passion. He is crucified for who he is not, and he is given every opportunity to flex his muscles and flee from the stain of untruth – as he tells Peter, he is fully capable of rescuing himself throughout this, but he bares it so that “scripture may be fulfilled” – to fulfill scripture who is Jesus!!! In this moment, in His passion, He allows Himself to be fully enveloped – to the extent of being condemned and crucified – and remains completely unchanged, He fulfills Himself as He foretold Himself to be. The teddy bear is still the teddy bear, no matter how scary he appeared in the dark.
Remember that point we glanced over earlier? About how important it is to follow who we know Him to be, even when He doesn’t appear as good? Consider Matthew 26:75 Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. At this moment, Peter has ventured out of bed and attacked the monster, who doesn’t fight back. He lets Himself be kicked, stomped on, maybe even torn. Then the child realizes who the monster is, or rather, who the teddy bear isn’t. Indeed, Peter is even pulled-back into Jesus by the cock’s crow, Jesus’ own prophecy.
How lucky we are to have a defender who stays our defender no matter what kind of ‘trick of the shadow’ is cast onto our sight! A teddy bear who endures our assault as he walks back to our side to once again lend us His supernatural aid and comfort against all the evils of the world!